Google Glass is in limited release to a select group of beta “Explorers”. Robert Scoble is one of them, and he just posted the most stunning testimonial that Google could have hoped for. If techies weren’t drooling over this new gadget before, they are now. Comments to Scoble’s piece were overwhelmingly positive and frothy, but there are skeptics out there. I’m not one of them, but…

Privacy: Most people cite personal privacy as their main objection over Glass. If you are having a private conversation with someone wearing funky high-tech glasses, as the concern goes, how do you know you aren’t being recorded? Answer: you don’t, just as you don’t know their phone isn’t in record mode or the USB pen camera in their pocket isn’t aimed straight at you. Glass is not without some privacy concerns, and clearly an etiquette will have to evolve. But the danger would really be not much more than for smartphones or other tech. Any concern over Glass is shortsighted and verging on an overly luddite. Sure, there will be some organizations and venues that elect to outlaw the use of Glass for security/privacy reasons, but one would hope that this is in keeping with their conservative ban on other similar technologies rather than an unreasonably specific fear of Google equipment.

Cost: Scoble made the comment that these will fly off the shelves if priced at $200. Sure. And if Teslas were $20k, we’d all be driving one. I don’t think Glass is going to be priced as he expects, at least in the first-gen. Glass is not a full-fledged cellphone, it is a “wearable computer” with a Heads-Up Display (HUD). As such, I don’t think it will be the initial $1500 price tag that was discussed when it was pre-Beta. It’s practically an accessory for a cellphone, with a bit of extra smarts. I’m guessing sub-kilobuck for the first release, eventually coming down to that magical $200 price point – just a little bit more than today’s priciest Bluetooth headset – in a few mass-produced competition-from-China years.

Utility: What does Glass buy me? Long after the “cool factor” and faddish aspects have waned, what is the usefulness of the product? Any new HCI tech is going to be a boon to the handicap/disability crowd, of that there is no doubt. But 90% of the beta testers cite photography as the use-case. That’s great, for some. There are those that live to share their life on the Interwebs via Vine, Path, and Instagram. But I’m not one of them. So from this standpoint, Glass has no appeal for me. Nor do I have any desire to watch Hulu out of the corner of my eye while I feign interest in a conversation with the person standing in front of me. I need to see more use-cases where the HUD proves to be more effective than whipping out my iPhone for reference. This would encompass map lookups, augmented-reality overlays, etc. Or perhaps during that tiresome conversation, Glass can do a Terminator-like analysis of the dialog and suggest the most appropriate “Fuck you, asshole” type Schwarzeneggar response?

Douchiness: I hate speakerphones. When someone in the office has their legs up on their desk having a conversation with their speakerphone that can be heard 3 doors down, that’s nothing but rude. Ditto the idiots with their Bluetooth headsets who have loud one-sided conversations, even while in a crowded elevator. I don’t care “what Angie did last night” or about the results of your latest colonoscopy. Hell, I’m not even that enamored with the use of Siri in public. Talking to inanimate objects can be tricky, so the douche-factor of Glass is going to be a big make-or-break for me. Society is not duly improved with everyone walking around talking loudly to their own private “Internet of Things”.

Distraction: We’ve all encountered those people who can’t put their smartphone down long enough to have a coherent conversation. Are we destined to be face-to-face with an army of social zombies sporting Glassy-eyed stares? Will walking into walls or falling into holes happen with even greater frequency than for those with their heads buried in their phones? And as for distracted driving, don’t get me started. Map lookup is one of the more “useful” use-cases of Glass, but is it safe to do while driving? I’ve seen drivers do all manner of unsafe activities behind the wheel (even without technology as their enabler). Glass may just be another for the list. It seems that law enforcement has barely started cracking down on hands-free and the anti-texting ads have only just begun. How long before they start worrying about all the Glassholes?

I think Google Glass will be successful, and in a useful way, not merely the latest fad. The only unknown is going to be the level of ubiquity – who has it and how often they use it. One thing is practically certain: the true early barometer of public Glass adoption will be how the porn industry takes to it. This was true of VCRs, the Internet, HDTV, and 3D. So when the first GG POV porno arrives, you’ll know Glass has too.

Bowm-chicka-wow-wow.

 

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